In our three-part series with Guest Contributor Lindsay Simmons, we're exploring childhood anxiety. Below, we have Part 2 of the series and a more in-depth look at the red flags of anxiety.
We all know that a little bit of fear is a good thing, fear is what keeps us from doing things that could potentially be harmful. But, how can you tell when your child’s level of fear has crossed the line from healthy to unhealthy? What are some of the signs to look for when trying to determine if your child’s fears and anxieties are getting out of control?
Well the simple answer is to watch them and see if they are starting to act out of character.
For younger children, some red flags might include:
● Constantly asking “what if” questions. “What if you can’t pick me up?” “What if my teacher isn’t there?” “What if the door is locked?” While all children are curious and ask questions, it can be a red flag when the questions are constant and start to seem out of character.
● Crying/Clinging/Tantrums/Freezing: While these are not red flags on their own, an increase in the frequency and severity – may indicate a red flag.
● Overly compliant: While it may seem great that your little one is suddenly doing what you’ve asked, overly compliant behavior can sometimes stem from a fear of displeasing adults, which is a hallmark of anxiety in children.
● Constantly seeking reassurance/needing a lot of approval: “Did I do this good?” “Do you love me?” “Is it ok like this?” “Are you proud of me?”. While our kids like to know they have done a good job – constantly seeking approval may be a sign of anxiety.
● Aches/nausea/vomiting: If you’ve taken your kiddo to the doctor and everything seems to be fine, these physical complaints may be red flags of anxiety.
● Refusing to speak in new or unfamiliar situations: Some kids can be shy in new places, and that’s healthy – but when they fail to speak at all ,or totally shut down in new situations, only to come back to life when they get home - this could be a warning sign.
● Sleep problems: Little kids are notorious for keeping parents awake at night! But constant nightmares and refusing to sleep alone – may be another red flag especially if it is out of character for your little one.
For older kids, things to watch out for include:
● Perfectionism: If your teen is intolerant of mistakes and constantly seeking high grades, this may be a red flag for anxiety, especially in kids who have been more flexible in the past.
● Passive and hesitant in social situations: Shyness can be the norm for some people, but when a teen doesn’t stand up for themselves, this is cause for concern.
● Avoiding social situations and activities: If you notice your teen spending a lot of time alone – eating alone, walking home alone, riding the bus alone or going out of their way to avoid social interactions – this may be a warning sign.
● Panics if called on to answer a question: Most teens don’t like having to answer a question in class. But if the thought of getting called on is stressing your teen out so much, that it interferes with their daily functioning, you may be dealing with anxiety.
● High avoidance of specific places or situations: Suddenly changing their route to school or their work schedule or even the friends they associate with – may all be indicators of anxiety.
● Decline in attention: Anxious teens have trouble focusing on what is in front of them because they are preoccupied with thoughts about all the things that could go wrong later on. If your teens attention has changed to a point that it is interfering with their daily life, you may be dealing with anxiety.
Knowing the early warning signs of anxiety is such an important part of helping your child. Research shows us that anxiety continues across the lifespan, with 64% of adults saying that their symptoms started at or before age 18. If left untreated, childhood anxiety can lead to depression, academic under achievement, drug and alcohol use and underemployment in adulthood. The good news is that with proper interventions now, your child or teen can be anxiety-free for years as adults.
If you are worried about your child, please feel free to connect with Lindsay for a free 15-minute phone consultation.